As printed in our May 25, 2015 issue...

RESTAURANT FOOD SALES TOPPED those from grocers for the first time this past March, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data. While grocery totals don't include big names like Walmart, Target and Costco, restaurant sales have been gaining ground steadily.

IN THE DAIRY CASE, the growing "eat-away-from-home" trend has been good for cheese, yogurt and butter as those products have been well featured in restaurant entrees. Meanwhile, a downturn in breakfast cereal sales has contributed to a drop in fluid milk consumption.

U.S. CHEESE OUTPUT POSTED A NEW RECORD for the 23rd straight year with the 2014 totals at 11.4 billion pounds. Wisconsin and its 127 plants accounted for 25.4 percent of all cheese; California's 60 plants manufactured 21.3 percent of the total U.S. curd production.

DAIRY REPLACEMENTS FETCHED $1,970 EACH, reported USDA. That price was off just $150 from October's peak. Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin led the 23-state pack at $2,080 to $2,100 per head.

MARGINS FELL to the lowest level since September 2013 as measured by the Milk-Feed-Price Ratio. Meanwhile, the March Margin Protection Plan (MPP) feed cost was $9.07, which left a margin of $7.53 per cwt.

CLASS III FUTURES AVERAGED $17.35 for June to December contracts, which was up 40 cents over the past 90 days. The range was $17 to $17.53.

A STRONG SPRING FLUSH in the Northeast and Upper Midwest caused March cheese output to swell by 11.3 percent from February. Butter grew 3.5 percent. Processors in the Mideast order also received 18.5 percent more milk during the first three months compared to last year. Soft demand from Southeast bottling plants also redirected milk.

NINE INDEPENDENT PRODUCERS LOST their home for milk effective May 31 due to full plant capacity. The dairies in Lewis County, N.Y., ranged from 17 to 240 cows and averaged 58,000 pounds per day.

A PROPOSAL TO REDUCE SCC LIMITS from 750,000 to 400,000 again faced defeat at the biennial National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments. FDA also outlined a pilot project to expand the drugs for which farm milk is to be tested beyond beta-lactams.

BRIEFLY: Environmentalists and the dairy farmers they were suing over groundwater pollution (read the March 10 issue, pages 158 and 159) may have reached a settlement, reported the Yakima Herald. U.S. dairy exports reached the highest volume in nine months and accounted for 15.9 percent of milk solids. Total dollars were off significantly. Prices fell to the lowest point since August 2009 at the Global Dairy Trade headquartered in the world's largest dairy export country, New Zealand. DairyPure will be the new national brand for Dean Foods' fluid milk products. The move consolidates 31 regional brands. Animal-health company Zoetis announced plans to reduce 20 percent of its workforce. Reports indicate most dairy-based health teams would not be affected.

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